Bible in One Year

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February 18 Day 49

Your Love Letter

Thankfully, there have been very few times since our relationship began that I have been apart from my wife Pippa. However, before we were married, there was a period of three weeks when I was away. In those days, without email or mobile phones, our only way of communication was by letter.

I wrote every day. She wrote every day. I remember so well the feeling of intense excitement and joy when I saw the handwriting on the envelope and knew that a letter from Pippa was inside.

I would quickly take the letter and go off to a quiet place by myself to study it! The actual letter wasn’t valuable, but the fact that it was written by the person I love made it so precious to me.

The Bible is a love letter from God to you. What makes the Bible so exciting is not the book itself, but the fact that through it we encounter the person we love. The whole Bible is about Jesus. The New Testament is obviously about Jesus. However, Jesus said of the Scriptures that were available in his lifetime (that is, the Old Testament): ‘These are the very Scriptures that testify about me’ (John 5:39).

February 17 Day 48

Sharpen Your Conscience

Jesus asks the question in today’s passage, ‘Which is lawful… to do good or to do evil...?’ (Mark 3:4).

I used to be an atheist. I believed that our bodies and minds and the circumstances into which we were born determined all our actions. Logically, it seemed to me, if there is no God there is no absolute basis for morality. Therefore, following this logic, there is no absolute ‘good’ or ‘evil’.

Yet, deep down, I knew that there was such a thing as ‘good’ and ‘evil’. Even though I did not believe in God, I used those words. However, it was not until I encountered Jesus that I understood that there is a God who has created a moral universe. In the Scriptures, and in particular in the person of Jesus Christ, the nature of good and evil are revealed.

God has given us a conscience so that we know that some things are ‘good’ and others are ‘evil’. But our consciences can be dulled and they need to be sharpened by objective truth.

February 16 Day 47

Put First Things First

Shortly after we were married, Pippa and I went to a conference about marriage. One of the sessions I will never forget was about priorities. We were given five cards – each with a word on it: ‘work’, ‘God’, ‘ministry’, ‘husband/wife’ and ‘children’. We were asked to rank these in order of priority. With hindsight, I can see I got them in completely the wrong order.

I put ‘God’ first (at least I got that one right – but it was fairly obvious!), followed by ministry, wife, work, and, finally, children (we didn’t have any children at that stage so they didn’t seem very important!).

As the leaders of the conference took us through these priorities, it became clear to me that my order should be: first of all God, then my wife (my primary calling), our children, my job (my primary ministry), and finally my ministry – which, though obviously very important, should not be allowed to displace the primary responsibilities of my life. As the philosopher Goethe put it, ‘Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.’

Put first things first. The things which matter most to God should take first place in our lives.

February 15 Day 46

The Highs and Lows of Life

As I look back on the past forty years as a Christian, there have been times of great spiritual highs – experiences of the Holy Spirit, God’s love, the joy of seeing people encounter Jesus for the first time, amazing answers to prayer and seeing the kingdom of God advancing. On the other hand, there have also been spiritual lows – desert experiences, bereavements, disappointments, failures, temptations, opposition, health issues and exhaustion. In the passages for today we see how spiritual highs and lows are closely connected.

February 14 Day 45

The Most Important Question in the World

The brilliant professor of philosophy at London University, C.E.M. Joad, was not a Christian. He was asked on a radio programme, ‘If you could meet any person from the past and ask them just one question, whom would you meet and what question would you ask?’

Professor Joad answered without hesitation: ‘I would meet Jesus Christ and ask him the most important question in the world – “Did you or did you not rise from the dead?”’

There came a day in Professor Joad’s life when he assessed the evidence, encountered Jesus himself and wrote a book called, Recovery of Belief. If Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, this changes everything.

When the New Testament writers speak of God’s love they point to the cross. When they speak of God’s power they point to the resurrection. God’s ‘incomparably great power’ was ‘exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead’ (Ephesians 1:19–20). The risen Jesus says to his disciples, ‘All authority (all power to rule) in heaven and on earth has been given to me’ (Matthew 28:18, AMP).

The resurrection means that the risen Jesus is present with you now. Jesus continues, ‘I am with you always’ (v.20).

The result of the resurrection is not only his power and his presence but also his provision.

February 13 Day 44

God Works for Your Good

Lord Radstock was staying in a hotel in Norway in the mid-nineteenth century. He heard a little child playing the piano downstairs in the hallway. She was making a terrible noise: ‘Plink... plonk... plink...’. It was driving him mad! A man came and sat beside her and began playing alongside her, filling in the gaps. The result was the most beautiful music. He later discovered that the man playing alongside was the girl’s father, Alexander Borodin, composer of the opera Prince Igor.

God calls you into a relationship that involves cooperation with him. The Christian faith is primarily about what has been done for you by God in Christ. However, we are not mere spectators. You are called to respond. God involves you in his plans. God comes and sits alongside you and ‘in all things... works for the good’ (Romans 8:28). He takes our ‘plink… plonk... plink...’ and makes something beautiful out of our lives.

February 12 Day 43

He Saved You

On 13 January 1982, Air Florida Flight 90 taking off from Washington, DC, crashed into the Potomac River. It was winter and the river was full of ice. The crash happened near a bridge going over the river. The TV cameras could see everything. Millions of viewers, sitting in their living rooms, watched as a helicopter overhead let down a life-belt on a line to a man struggling in the water. He grabbed the line, swam to another survivor just by him, clipped the woman in and they hoisted her up to safety. The helicopter let down the line again, and again the man did the same thing. He swam to someone else, and rescued them. He saved others, before finally, exhausted, he himself drowned.

Why did this man not save himself? The answer is that he was out to save others. In an even more amazing way, Jesus did not save himself because he was out to save you and me.

Today, focus your thoughts on Jesus, the Saviour of the world, and meditate on how he saved you.

February 11 Day 42

Freedom

Steve McQueen’s film Twelve Years a Slave is based on the memoirs of Solomon Northup, born free in New York state but kidnapped in Washington DC in 1841, sold into slavery and kept in bondage for twelve years in Louisiana. He describes at length the horrors of slavery on the cotton and sugar plantations.

Eventually, in 1853, he was rescued from slavery and reunited with his family. He wrote, ‘They embraced me, and with tears flowing down their cheeks, hung upon my neck. But I draw a veil over a scene that can better be imagined than described... I have been restored to happiness and liberty.’

Slavery, in any form, is a horrific evil. Freedom is a wonderful blessing.

Moses is the liberator of God’s people in the Old Testament. He foreshadows Jesus – the supreme liberator. As Moses set God’s people free from slavery, so Jesus sets you free from slavery to sin.

‘Freedom’ is probably the best contemporary word to define what the Bible means by ‘salvation’. The whole Bible could be summed up as the ‘history of salvation’. It is the story of God’s desire and purpose to free his people. You are set free.

February 10 Day 41

Life-Changing Words

My father wanted to go to Russia before he died. We went there on holiday as a family. At that time Bibles were strictly illegal there. I took with me some Russian Bibles. While I was there I went to churches and looked for people who seemed to be genuine Christians. (Church meetings were often infiltrated by the KGB.)

On one occasion, I followed a man down the street after a service. I went up to him and tapped him on the shoulder. There was nobody about. I took out one of my Bibles and handed it to him. For a moment, he had an expression of utmost disbelief. Then he took from his pocket a New Testament, which was probably 100 years old. The pages were so threadbare they were virtually transparent. When he realised that he had received a whole Bible, he was elated. He didn’t speak any English and I didn’t speak any Russian. But we hugged each other and he started to run up and down the street jumping for joy.

The words of God are ‘more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb’ (Psalm 19:10).

Why are the words of God so precious? Jesus said: ‘People do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4). The original expression means ‘is continually coming out of the mouth of God’; it is like a stream pouring forth and, like the stream of a fountain, it is never static. God is continually communicating with us. He does so, primarily, through the life-changing words of the Bible.

February 9 Day 40

Five Excuses

It is the song most frequently played at British funeral services. It is the most remade song in history. It was popularised by Frank Sinatra on his 1969 album, My Way. In the Philippines, ‘My Way’ is so popular in karaoke bars that it has been declared responsible for a number of deaths where arguments over performance degenerated into violence!

And did it my way!
Yes, it was my way!’

‘I did it my way’ is the way of the world. It is not the way of Jesus. Jesus said, ‘Yet not as I will, but as you will’ (Matthew 26:39). He prays, ‘May your will be done’ (v.42). He made no excuses. Jesus did it God’s way. Moses, on the other hand, as we will see today, made five excuses before eventually agreeing to follow God’s way.